On Monday, I had to go to court. No, I’m not going to jail. I’m not getting deported. I actually had to go in because it’s a mandatory court appearance for driving without an insurance card. Now, before you jump all over my back, I DID have insurance, just happened that I was driving a work vehicle that night and couldn’t find where the vehicle paperwork was. The officer was firm but nice, and while he had to write the ticket, explained to me how to get out of paying the fine if I did indeed have insurance.
So, Monday morning, bright and early, I headed out to the courthouse downtown, paperwork in hand. Got to the courthouse 10 minutes early, and into the courtroom 5 minutes late. Why? The line to get into the court was at least 70 people deep! So in case you EVER have to go, Tip #1 is to make SURE you go early and plan for a fairly lengthy wait in line. Once I got up to the room, you check to make sure your name is on the list at the front of the courthouse (no use waiting for your name to get called and realizing you were in the wrong room!). Once you find your name, you go in and check in with the bailiff.
Not sure how they run things in other parts of the country, but here in Hawaii, they basically put a whole bunch of felons, er, ticket-holders, into a big courtroom, and call names one by one to deal with each case as quickly as they can. I say that because all of these cases were traffic related, with maybe 50% of them being driving without a license and the other 50% driving without insurance. They also go in alphabetial order, so being that my last name is in the back 1/3 of the alphabet, I knew I had a bit of a wait. Boy was I right!
It was fairly interesting listening to all the cases come and go. Some people just simply didn’t show up, and let me tell you, Tip #2 is to make sure you show up to court! Prosecutor reads their name, and if they aren’t in the courtroom, BOOM! $100 dollar bench warrant. Or $500 bench warrant. One guy even got a $1,000 bench warrant. Ouch! (cue the music, “bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when the come for you…”
If you are present, you get called up to the bench pretty quickly, and state your name. Then the prosecutor tells you what crime you’re accused of (again, DWL or DWI). Some people show their proof of insurance, or their drivers license, and then voila, they’re clear, charges dismissed, see the bailiff for your paperwork, and you’re outta there. Some don’t. Then it gets sticky. They can either plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. No contest is sort of like a noncommittal response…. legally, you don’t claim that you’re guilty, but you also don’t refute the charge. It’s sort of like saying, “maybe I did maybe I didn’t”… but essentially everyone knows you did.
Most of the people who pled guilty actually got a “deal” with the prosecutor, who offered a much lower fine (usually $100) and no jail time (instead of the “normal” $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail!). Those who pled not guilty got a new court date and a trial.
It was a little chaotic in there, with people literally coming and going ALL THE TIME through those big wooden doors that don’t slam but sort of slam shut. And the prosecutor, judge, or defendant are always talking, because they have like 150+ people to get through so it’s like speed-dating. But for felons. Ok, not felons. Quasi-criminals.
And how did I do? After waiting in the courtroom from 8:35am all the way until nearly 11am, they finally called case #149. Me. I went up, showed my insurance paperwork, and heard those glorious words “case dismissed with prejudice”. I don’t care of the case was dismissed with a theme song! I was free!
You may be hoping for some pictures of the goings on. I thought about it. I really did. But I was deathly afraid that they would notice me snapping away, confiscate my phone, and throw me in the brig for a night, just for contempt of court or something. So, you’ll just have to believe my words that this was all truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.